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Microsorum whiteheadii

Microsorum whiteheadii Smith & Hoshizaki

Even today in the early part of the 21st century new ferns are still being discovered. This member of the Polypodiaceae  
was discovered in the Bukit Tingii area of Western Sumatra.  This fern grows on limestone outcroppings.

A group of collectors were out in search of Amorphophallus hirsutus when they happened upon a limestone outcropping 
which was home to several of these ferns.  At the time of discovery, the ferns were desiccated due to the lingering drought 
that summer in Indonesia.  After the plants were gathered up and rehydrated.  They began to look healthy again.

This fern was originally seen by John Banta, a Florida plantsman, who could not recall where he had originally collected it.  
It was later found by Reggie Whitehead who collected herbarium samples and worked to get the plant identified.  The 
taxonomic work was performed by Alan R. Smith and Barbara Joe Hoshizaki.

Strap ferns

This is an example of what is known as a strap fern.  The strap ferns are primarily in the genera of  Polypodium (this includes subcategories such as Campyloneurum, Niphidium, and Microsorum) and Pyrrosia.  

There are similarities in these strap ferns, but they all are broad and lanceolate in shape. The neo-tropics include 
Campyloneurum phyllitidis and C. latum which are native to South Florida, and to the untrained eye, these two ferns can 
look almost identical.  Niphidium crassifolium takes on a similar appearance, but there are significant differences once you 
observe the sori.  

Old world species are represented by Microsorum.  In Southeast Asia, there is Microsorum fortunei, M. thailandicum,  M. steerii, and M. punctatum, plus the new species, M. whiteheadii. In Africa, there is M. pappei (which is very similar to M. fortunei in appearance).   There are other Microsorum species in these countries, but they are generally not cultivated.

Within the genus Pyrrosia, there are several strap-fronds:  Pyrrosia stigmosa, P. splendens, P. beddomeana, P. penangiana 
and P. princeps.  These fronds tend to grow to an average length of perhaps 2 1/2 feet.


The original outcropping of this plant has probably been destroyed.  The outcropping was 
being torn down on the day that this fern was collected.  The limestone outcroppings are a 
source of marble, and so, any vegetation on the rocks are summarily destroyed when 
workers are extracting marble.  In the same area, there was another outcropping which was reduced to rubble.  
This area is (or was) home to Amorphophallus hirsutus.